Abalone Cove

Grant Provides Capstone Funding for Abalone Cove

Date: September 20, 2020

The Conservancy received a grant of $55,000 from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) (with major funding from Toyota Motor North America) for a multiyear restoration project to restore and enhance 13 acres at Abalone Cove Reserve.  This project will improve the reserve’s ecological value, providing important plants for rare wildlife, increasing numbers of rare plant species and decreasing erosion and sediment movement long the bluff  –- all while involving the community in the stewardship of this precious coastal area.

The grant provides critical funds required for the Abalone Cove Restoration Project, which began two years ago.  A total of over $425,000 in grants (including the NEEF award) have been received to date to support this project.  The Coastal Conservancy and Natural Resources Conservation Service provided over $360,000 in funding.  California Water Service and Southern California Edison have provided additional gifts.  To complete the funding for this important project, the Conservancy still seeks a final $100,000 from the community.

NEEF’s 2021 Biodiversity Conservation Grant will help support restoration in the Abalone Cove Reserve, located in one of the rarest and most diverse ecosystems in southern California. Considered a biodiversity hotspot for the high number of endemic plant and wildlife species, habitat throughout the entire Palos Verdes Peninsula is a fraction of what it once was due to both widespread development and invasive species spread.  Abalone Cove’s coastal sage scrub habitat occupies only 85% of its former range and is considered one of the most endangered plant communities in the United States. This is why restoring 13 acres of habitat at Abalone Cove Reserve is such an important endeavor to ensure that rare and endangered species may thrive.

Abalone Cove Reserve contains important natural marine resources.  It is part of the Rancho Palos Verdes Natural Communities Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP) and is a protected area of special interest to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.  It is adjacent to Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, which was upgraded in 2014 by the City of Rancho of Palos Verdes with an improved parking lot, plant-lined pathways and educational signage

The project will restore coastal sage scrub, cactus scrub and host plants to support four special status species: the threatened California gnatcatcher; species of special concern cactus wren; and both the El Segundo and Palos Verdes blue butterflies, two federally endangered species. It will create a significant resource for the region to benefit pollinators through butterfly and bird habitat expansion. Successful restoration of this ecosystem will eradicate nonnative acacia species, black mustard, ice plant and various other invasive weeds on the site that limit the area’s potential biodiversity.

According to Conservancy Executive Director Adrienne Mohan, ”It is exciting to have secured 80% of the resources needed for this monumental, first restoration project since the City of Rancho Palos Verdes’ adoption of the NCCP/HCP.  This project will fulfill the critical need to support wildlife species that face extinction due to environmental and human pressures and will also enhance the land’s ability to withstand stresses such as coastal erosion and prolonged drought conditions.”

Early on in the project, goats were deployed to feast on the proliferation of non-native weeds, while the Conservancy later deployed its field crews along with specialized arborists to remove razor-sharp, invasive cat claw acacia and other shrubs. After clearing nonnative plants, the crew installed temporary irrigation lines. The lines serve two purposes. The first is to assist with the “grow and kill” method of flushing out invasive plants by watering and germinating and then removing them before they can set their seeds. The second is to judiciously water the native plants grown from local seed in the Conservancy’s nursery that have been planted in the fall to ensure successful early establishment.

The next two phases began in February 2021 and will go through October 2022, when volunteers and crew will eradicate weeds to prepare for phase 3 planting.  To maintain genetic integrity and diversity, native plants for the project are grown from local seeds in the Conservancy’s Native Plant Nursery in San Pedro. In the fall, volunteers and crew will install the last four acres of coastal sage scrub and cactus scrub plants.

The plant installation will mimic the natural distribution and vegetation mosaic of adjacent healthy habitats.  Rare California plants will include Catalina rockflower (Crossosoma californicum) and island green dudleya (Dudleya virens ssp. Insularis).  Sea-cliff buckwheat host plants for El Segundo blue butterflies will be installed to help increase a burgeoning population on the coastal bluffs. Similarly, we are providing deerweed and rattlepod host plants for the PV blue butterfly to reintroduce onto historic routes in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Volunteer Coordinator Megan Wolff explains another important aspect of the project:  it directly engages the community through public volunteer day opportunities held on Saturdays throughout the year. “In addition to a comprehensive educational introduction, the Conservancy educates volunteers on work days about appropriate planting and maintenance techniques to care for the coastal sage scrub habitat. This instruction serves yet another way for the community to connect to the outdoors and for the Conservancy to excite community members about the value of diverse native habitats,”  she said.

Volunteer partners are from South Bay high schools and service organizations such as International Environmental Stewards, Los Hermanos, Audubon YES club, Science National Honors Society National Charity League and Boy and Girl Scouts of America. If you are interested in helping, please contact www.pvplc.org/volunteer.